Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List

71. Jamie Court
Consumer advocate Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, is one of the people who almost – but not quite – makes this list each time around.  This year, as a main mover behind two ballot initiatives, Propositions 45 and 46, Court has unquestionably earned his place.  Proposition 45 would regulate health insurance rates in California through the Insurance Commissioner and it has a wide swath of backers, including the state Democratic Party.  Proposition 46 would boost the $250,000 cap on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering and implement drug testing for doctors — two reasons the California Medical Association and its allies have  put up $40 million to defeat it. As Consumer Watchdog chief, Court has made a career of battling all comers in the interest of the public, and his take-no-prisoners approach has earned him plenty of enemies. The latter include some who one might think would agree with his causes (Maviglio, cough cough.)  For his part, Court (Twitter handle @RaisingHellNow) seems to embrace the bloodsport.

72. Carl Guardino
For more than 16 years, Carl Guardino, a former Capitol staffer, headed the trade association known as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents more than 300 of Silicon Valley’s most important companies. Before the SVLG, Guardino was an executive at HP, and he cut his political teeth in the Capitol on the staff of former Assemblyman Rusty Areias, then a Los Banos Democrat and now a major player at California Strategies (and, we might add, No. 83).  Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, put Guardino on the California Transportation Commission, one of the most important bodies in the state that holds sway over billions of dollars in funding. Guardino will be there until 2015, and our guess is he’ll be reappointed by Brown then if he wants the job.

73. Liz Snow
To the general public, the California Dental Association may not be viewed as a major Capitol political player, but indeed it is – in spades. It’s been around since 1870 and represents some 25,000 dentists, targeting such touchstone issues such as regulation and quality of care. One of the reasons it wields such influence is Liz Snow, who is in the middle of the dentists’ political battles and who holds sway over their powerful PAC. Snow is the chief operations officer of the CDA, a role that is all but certain to increase in importance as the Affordable Care Act continues to add Californians to its rolls. The restoration of optional adult dental services under Medi-Cal also is a key factor for the CDA.

74. Nancy Drabble
Nancy Drabble  is the chief executive officer of the Consumer Attorneys of California, an aggressive, effective and well-funded group that frequently gets involved in high-stakes policy and political battles. This year is no different: A long-sought dream of the litigators, raising the limit on pain and suffering awards for medical malpractice, is on the November ballot and the doctors and insurers are raising millions of dollars to fight. To Drabble, a veteran of many political battles, fighting special interests is nothing new. She came to the Consumer Attorneys in 1986, fresh from a stint with consumer activist Ralph Nader’s “Raiders.” The attorneys’ web site notes that she was a behind-the-scenes player in the “napkin deal” at Frank Fat’s restaurant that temporarily brought a truce between insurers, doctors, manufacturers and lawyers. Drabble, from Los Angeles, received her law degree from UC Berkeley.

75. Patricia Megason
Patricia Megason is the executive vice president at the Rural County Representatives of California, nearly four decades old, which is involved in some of the hottest issues of the Capitol, including curbing greenhouse gas emissions, land use restrictions, transportation, water rights, growth and the like. The fights are usually uphill for “RCRC,” but nobody said it would be easy. On water alone, a topic of vital interest to the counties during the third year of drought, major political battles are under way, such as the November water bond and the Brown administration efforts to push through the twin-tunnels Delta project. At the center of RCRC is Patricia Megason, who navigates the treacherous political waters and helps translate the will of RCRC’s governing board into action. That’s no easy chore, but she does it.

76. Bill Dombrowski
Bill Dombrowski has headed the California Retailers Association for two decades, representing some 167,000 businesses doing $571 billion worth of trade annually. Those are big numbers, so there’s usually a lot at stake for retailers in virtually every budget fight — sales tax hikes, for example — although the group’s interests go far beyond taxes to credit regulation, garment manufacturing, privacy, alcohol and tobacco sales. Dombrowski, the CRA’s president and chief executive officer, is a former chairman of the Industrial Welfare Commission, which sets the minimum wage and deals with overtime issues. He’s also worked with the California Business Roundtable and the Los Angeles Urban League.

77. George Skelton
We’ve always thought that the best newspaper columnists are solid wordsmiths and aren’t predictable, repetitive or doctrinaire, and the L.A. Times’ concise and grouchy George Skelton passes the test. It helps that he writes for the state’s largest newspaper, but that’s only part of it. He handles his columns like a reporter, showing up with tape recorder and notebook to pin a subject. He often surprises readers, as when he recently wrote about groundwater regulation and noted that “policy-makers are padlocking flush toilets and shutting off showers at some state parks. But they’re too lazy or cowardly to regulate people’s wells.” You gotta love the guy. Skelton, a former UPI reporter – Capitol Weekly is partial to former wire service reporters — has covered state politics since Pat Brown was governor and Jerry Brown had hair. And that depth of experience is reflected in his work.

78. Dan Walters
Columnist Dan Walters is a Capitol institution who has been writing columns and analyses for the Bee for 30 years. Before that he had a similar role – plus reporting – at the defunct Sacramento Union. Walters does  analyses and opinion pieces, but he also does reporting – generally now in shorter form than when his first priority was to fill a newsprint hole. Staffers in the Capitol, the electeds, the lobbyists and others follow Walters’ writing, and the Bee even has him doing video. Technology has changed, but not Walters’ basic approach, which is skepticism of just about everything, especially Democrats. The deeply sourced Walters loves to skewer authority and point out the daily hypocrisies of the Capitol, which is one reason why he’s popular with his readership.

79. McNally/Temple
Ray McNally and Richard Temple usually fill two spots on this list, but this year we thought, what the hell, let’s save a space since they really are two parts of one whole.  McNally/Temple has been the go-to consulting team for California’s Republicans for many years –and national ones, too. The client list includes George Bush, Pete Wilson, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, various GOP lawmakers, contenders and county committees; and even the late Sonny Bono, plus an array of ballot propositions. But one might assume that with the decline in California Republican’s political power, there would be a similar decline in McNally/Temple. Not so. They have formed alliances with labor organizations, business groups and others, McNally/Temple retains its longstanding reputation as one of the Sacramento’s strongest consulting firms. McNally founded the company in 1980.

80. Jason Kinney
Lobbyist Jason Kinney, a political strategist and principal at California Strategies, handles major Democrats, including Lt. Gavin Newsom, among others. He works on any number of major projects, most of which we know nothing about until they make headlines. Kinney, who’s close to departing Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, worked in Gray Davis’ communications shop and is known best in the Capitol and among reporters for his political connections and savvy. He’s also advised any number of corporate clients, including AT&T, perhaps the single most powerful corporate presence in the Capitol (see Bill Devine, No. 6). Kinney also knows the relationships between strategists, candidates and clients, and is a walking encyclopedia of what’s going on beyond the public view. Kinney and two of his colleagues – Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox — at California Strategies got into trouble earlier this year with a $40,500 combined fine for them and the firm for failing to register as lobbyists, as required by California law.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: